Bread – Rules

October 29, 2014


Readings for Wednesday, October 29, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: *; Rev. 12:1-6; Luke 11:37-52; Psalms 49,53,119:49-72

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In our reading today from Luke, Jesus has something to say to the Pharisees and then he turns His attention to the lawyers – “And He said, ‘Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear…Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key to knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.’” Luke 11:46,52

Now some might think it is time for a lawyer joke, but it is not.

Lawyers are very knowledgeable about the rules and our ethics and training orient us to obedience to the rules. The rules (the law) are everything – if you get the rules right and your opponent does not, you often win. Why follow the rules? Because that way you can be winners (the right way).

“If we just follow the rules we can be winners” is almost hard-wired into everyone’s minds (except criminals and sociopaths). So, why is Jesus saying “woe “ to the lawyers.

I think the key to understanding Jesus’ anger is locked up in the phrase “For you have taken away the key to knowledge.” What is that key?

To answer that question we first have to ask about the kind of knowledge being spoken of. We tend to think of knowledge as “book learning,” something we get in school, something we get through reading and studying. However, knowledge also comes from experience. When we experience someone crying, we gain knowledge about pain. We gain knowledge by direct experience (having pain ourselves) and vicarious or indirect knowledge, through experiencing the life of someone else. When we read about it, it is book knowledge. When we see it, it is experiential knowledge.

The Greek word used for “knowledge” in the Luke passage is the word for experiential knowledge.

So, to paraphrase Jesus, “Woe to you lawyers because you have taken away the key to experiential knowledge.”

What is the key to experiential knowledge? Experience – doing things, being in relationship, seeing and hearing and touching. Whereas book knowledge touches the brain and may sometimes penetrate to the heart, experiential knowledge touches the heart and may penetrate to the brain.

We do not learn about humility by reading a book, but by experiencing the negative effect our pride has on our world around us. We do not learn about charity by reading a book, but by giving generously of what we have and by receiving generously of what other people give. We do not learn about love by reading a book, but by loving and by letting ourselves be loved. We do not understand a sunset by reading about a sunset but by experiencing a sunset.

This discussion is not intended to say that experience is the only thing that matters because it is not. God’s revelation to us is also contained in His Word written, Holy Scripture, and our desire to be obedient to our Savior and Master should drive us to reading, digesting, discussing, and meditating upon His Word written.

However, Christianity is not and never has been about head knowledge. It is about facts, yes. Our Lord was born, grew up, preached, died, was resurrected, and ascended. And we know from Scripture that He will come again. The past are facts. The future is hope based upon faith, facts, and God.

But “knowledge” in Christianity is experiential. We love God because He first loved us. We love Jesus not only because of the historical facts but because of the reality of the relationship with Him in our lives.

We are saved not because we have followed the rules, because as sinful people we cannot follow the rules (we can and should try; but we cannot ever be 100% perfect). We are saved because Jesus wrote our name in His book, because He raised us up from being dead in our sins, because the Holy Spirit has come to empower us for daily living.

There is a funny thing about Scripture, and that is that is both book knowledge (I read it) and experiential knowledge (as I read it, the Holy Spirit lets us “see” how it applies in our lives, resulting in changed behaviors).

If all we are doing is following the rules, if all we are doing is reading Scripture as a novel or for further rules about how we are to live our lives, we may be a lawyer. What is worse, if we are teaching others, leading others, serving as an example to others, we may in our earnestness as lawyers be taking away the key to knowledge.

The key to knowledge, experiential knowledge, is not in the rules … it is in Jesus. To obtain that knowledge, we must have a relationship with Him.

How does that occur? Not by following any set of rules or rituals or magic words or actions. It comes from a turning of the heart away from ourselves toward the Creator of the Universe and having faith in Him.

It is that simple and that hard. And isn’t that the nature of the two types of knowledge. The knowledge from books is complex but can be mastered. The knowledge from experience is simple but hard to do (and really can never be mastered). A book can be read in isolation. Experience requires you and someone or something else. Books are clean; experience is messy. There is safety in rules; there is danger in change. Reading a book only requires trust in me; living an experience requires trust in others.

This is why lawyers can take away the key to knowledge. We can create rules which create boundaries of safety, clarity, certainty, and predictability. And living within those structures will deny you the knowledge from experience you need for true success. For that, you have to step out into the unknown, into faith. But that is where life is. That is where hope is. That is where Jesus is. That is where eternal life with the Father is.

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© 2014 GBF

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